Creativation, the Association For Creative Industries’ (AFCI) 77th annual conference and trade show, kicked off the 2018 trade show season by inspiring thousands of creative businesses January 18-22, 2018 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Arizona. Recognized as the largest creative arts trade event in North America, Creativation featured 300 exhibitors and attracted 3,000 attendees from 53 countries in its second consecutive year at the Phoenix venue. Creativation was the launching pad for new products and executed an extensive conference and networking program, which comprised of more than 160 workshops, seminars, demonstrations and events that were designed to help the thousands of attendees reinvent their businesses.

“We’ve had numerous suppliers share they had a very successful show, and retailers and influencers comment on the excellence of the education program and range of networking events,” said Mark Hill, President & Chief Executive Officer, AFCI. “We set out to help the industry learn, connect and discover, and we achieved.”

Laurie Karian of Gel Press by PolyGel shared, “We can’t imagine launching our year without this show.” Gel Press was one of 43 companies that unveiled new products in the New Product Showcase, which gave hundreds of attendees and media a sneak peek at what’s trending on the evening before the trade show opened.

Mark Lee of Dream Solutions Marketing Corp, said, “I would encourage any person or company to attend the Creativation show if you’re currently in, or want to be in, the creative industries. Attending the Creativation event will be an investment in your future. It doesn’t matter if you’re a designer/service provider, retailer, distributor, importer or manufacturer. If you want to grow your business, you need to be where the action happens. And that’s at the Creativation show.”

Joe Rotella, AFCI Designer member and Creator VIP attendee, wrote, “I really tried to maximize my investment in Creativation this year. Early morning meetings, lunch meetings, evening meetings…hardly any breaks. And I feel like it’s really starting to pay off.”

Trends spotted at the trade show were paint pouring and marbling techniques, paper flowers, travel journals, shaker cards, hand lettering, and a variety of animal patterns including llamas, sloths, flamingos and other birds.

Spotlight areas at the trade show were the Edible Arts Pavilion, sponsored by Satin Ice, which highlighted cake decorating and candy making supplies; and the Fashion District, which showcased needlecraft, sewing, and textile tools.

Shama Hyder, renowned entrepreneur and Chief Executive Officer of The Marketing Zen Group, delivered the Keynote presentation, providing actionable advice and case studies to help retailers, manufacturers, and creative professionals elevate their customer experience in the age of digital marketing. Hyder declared, “There has never been a better time to be in the creative industry.”

A General Session led by executives at Crayola discussed shopper insights about kids crafts. They shared macro trends that are driving sales, such as education, screen addiction, the desire to disconnect, and social sharing.

A series of iDiscover Chats that focused on international business was new this year. Sara Davies, MBE of Crafter’s Companion explained important information about doing business in the United Kingdom, VAT, and channel management tactics. David Gilliver of Initiative Handarbeit discussed the opportunity of the textile industry in Germany, which he valued at $1.25 billion USD. Taskashi Kimura of the Japan Hobby Association shared crafts trends from the island nation and the size of the Japan crafts industry as $8.9 billion USD.

The Association awarded the BowVy Cutter, a handheld, cordless, hot filament cutting tool with interchangeable tips that makes a decorative V-cut and seals the ends of most ribbon and polyester fabric, $10,000 as the Top Creative Innovation of 2018. Karyn Ranzau, inventor and owner of the Little Pink Ladybug, won The Ultimate Pitch, a competition sponsored by The Michaels Companies that recognizes a product or technique that creates new opportunities in the creative industries. When asked how she planned to use the money, Ranzau said, “We’ve got a notebook full of ideas,” which include developing and testing prototypes for accessories.

Creativation 2019 will be held January 17-21, with education beginning on January 17 and the trade show opening January 19-21. The event will be at the Phoenix Convention Center annually through 2022. For more highlights from this year and to sign up to exhibit or teach next year, visit

AFCI is organizing two additional events this year. Mixed Media Event 2018, a mid-year buying opportunity exclusively for creative retailers, will take place July 16-18, 2018 at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, Utah. In the MKNG™, a new festival for the public and people who love to DIY, create and craft, will take place September 29-30, 2018 at Bethel Woods Center For The Arts in Bethel, New York.